What Is Asado?

The word asado is a multifunctional term that describes the method of barbecuing meat in South America, the meat itself, and the social event associated with the meal. Much like American barbecue, asado has a unique cooking method, cultural traditions, and specialty sauces that accompany it. Whether you’re incorporating traditional Hispanic foods into your menu or catering a barbecue, asados are comprehensive experiences that will delight guests. From its grill to its cultural roots, read on to discover everything you need to know about asado so you can host and prepare your own.

Asado Meaning

Asado is an American Spanish word that translates to “roasted” or “roast meat”. It is derived from the Spanish word asar, which means “to roast”. However, when people use the word asado, they are often referring to the unique grilling method used to cook Argentinian barbeque, and the vibrant social event Latin American cultures enjoy while preparing asado.

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What Is Argentinian BBQ?

Asado meats grilling on a parilla grill

Argentinian BBQ is known as asado. To create an authentic asado, you must educate yourself on essential Argentinian BBQ terms. Just like training your kitchen staff on common Spanish restaurant phrases creates an equitable environment, using the correct Spanish phrases when preparing and serving asado honors its mother culture. To cultivate authenticity, learn the top Argentinian BBQ terms below:

  • Asador - The asador is the main chef tasked with tracking the progress of each cut of meat. They must add more fuel to the fire and adjust the heat to accommodate each meat variety. The asador is sometimes referred to as the parrillero.
  • Parilla - The parilla is a unique grill designed for the asado BBQ method. It has two sections, the first contains coal or wood, and the second section houses the metal grill, known as la parilla.
  • Carne a La Parilla - The meats prepared on the parilla grill for an asado are known as carne a la parilla.
  • Con Lena - When the asador uses wood to make the cooking fire, it is called con lena.
  • Asado Criollo - The term Asado criollo describes rustic, traditional events where the meat is prepared with a wood fire and has a smokey flavor.

What Is a Parilla?

In Argentine cuisine, the word parilla refers to three things: the barbecue grill, the metal grate positioned over the grill’s wood and ember-filled firebox, and steakhouses that serve barbecued meat. A parilla grill is a type of outdoor grill that employs long, low, and slow cooking times, tenderizing even the toughest cuts of meat. However, unlike the traditional American method of smoking meat, parilla grills are open and don’t imbue as much wood smoke flavor as an enclosed offset smoker.

Asado Meat

An assortment of asado meats grilling including chorizo, ribs, chicken breasts, and steak

Since Argentinian beef is renowned worldwide, it is no surprise that beef is the star asado meat. However, a traditional asado will contain many types of meat, including sausages, pork, and chicken. Asadors usually serve the sausages as appetizers because they take less time to cook than the dense cuts of beef. Occasionally, asadors will grill lamb (cordero) and mutton (oveja) as well. Seasoning is kept simple: just a dash of sal parrillera, grilling salt. Added flavor comes from the chimichurri dipping sauce. Discover the traditional asado meats below:

  • Bife Ancho - Rib eye steak
  • Vacio - Flank steak
  • Tira de Asado - Short ribs
  • Lomo - Tenderloin/filet mignon
  • Arrachera - Skirt steak
  • Cerdo - Pork is the second most prevailing type of meat at an asado. The most popular cut of pork for an asado is pork ribs, matambre.
  • Cordero - Lamb
  • Pechugas de Pollo - Chicken breasts

What Is Chimichurri?

Strips of medium-rare steak drizzled in chimichurri sauce

Chimichurri is an uncooked sauce that resembles pesto. At its most basic, chimichurri contains finely chopped herbs, garlic, oil, and vinegar. The most common herbs for chimichurri are parsley, cilantro, and oregano. Chefs choose their heat level by incorporating red pepper flakes or chili peppers. Green chimichurri is the most popular, but there is red chimichurri sauce made with tomatoes or red peppers. Asadors provide chimichurri as a condiment with their grilled meats, and chefs use it as an ingredient in dishes like chimichurri and steak flatbread.

What Does Chimichurri Taste Like?

Chimichurri has an herbaceous, umami flavor and a smooth mouthfeel. The pungency of the garlic, the tang of the vinegar, and the heat from the chilis are mellowed by the richness of the olive oil and grounded by the cilantro, oregano, and parsley.

Where Is Chimichurri From?

Chimichurri sauce originated in Argentina, where it is the standard accompaniment to Argentinian barbecued meats. They also use it as an ingredient and as a salad dressing. Chimichurri is very popular in Uruguayan cuisine as well.

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Asado Appetizers

Grilled provoleta cheese adorned with grilled red peppers

Guests naturally get hungry waiting for the meat to grill on the parilla. Discover some of the most beloved asado appetizers you can use to stave off hunger while the asador prepares the main course.

  • Provoleta - A thick slice of provolone-style cheese grilled until it’s browned and bubbling and then served with bread.
  • Empanadas - Small turnovers stuffed with beef, ham and cheese, cheesy spinach/corn, or chicken. Argentinian chefs incorporate chimichurri into their stuffing.
  • Mollejas - Sweetbreads/thymus glands that are marinated in salt and lemon juice before cooking and then served hot atop bread.
  • Argentinian Chorizo - Sausage made with a blend of pork and beef. It isn’t as spicy as its Mexican and Spanish counterparts.
  • Morcilla - A type of Latin American blood sausage.
  • Chinchulines - Grilled, roasted, or fried beef small intestine.

Argentine Asado Side Dishes

Grilled peppers and zucchini prepared as side dishes for an asado

The foundation of any asado is the meat. However, there are specialty Argentine asado side dishes. Since the main course contains heavy proteins, asado side dishes are usually lighter, vegetable-forward foods.

  • Ensalada - A simple tomato and lettuce salad.
  • Ensalada de Papas - Salad comprised of potato, onion, and mayonnaise.
  • Grilled Vegetables Served with Chimichurri Sauce - Seasonal vegetables grilled and then sauced with chimichurri.
  • Argentine Grilled Potatoes - Potatoes tossed in Argentine aji molido (ground red chile) and served with mayonnaise and smoked paprika dressing.
  • Hearts of Palm Salad - A salad made with hearts of palm, avocado, tomato, orange juice, lime juice, and olive oil.

Argentinian Asado

Cuts of beef and ribs grilling over coal fire on an argentinian bbq grill

While not exclusive to it, asado plays a dominant role in Argentinian culture. Spanish colonizers introduced asado to the Argentine people in the 16th century. The conquistadors brought premium cattle beef to Argentina’s fertile Pampas plains and taught Argentinians their innovative method of preparing this new food source. Asado quickly entwined itself with local culture.

Where Is Asado From?

Asado originated in Argentina. Today, people enjoy it throughout South America. An asado is considered a traditional event in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and Paraguay.

Argentina National Dish

Asado is the national dish in Argentina.

Why Is Asado Considered More than a Dish?

Asado is more than a dish because it is the heartbeat of Argentinian culture, embodying its social traditions, history, and world-renowned cuisine. Asado is synonymous with fine dining in Argentina, but asados are also the backbone of family gatherings and celebrations marked by long hours around the grill enjoying good food and fellowship. It is Argentina’s national dish, both because it is their unique delicacy and because it is the fire around which its people commune.

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Asado is a communal food full of hearty, premium cuts of meat served with chimichurri dipping sauce and wholesome sides. Whether you’re catering an event or incorporating global foods into your restaurant menu, Asado is a foolproof way to delight patrons. To complete your asado menu, pair your Argentinian BBQ with rich Malbec wine.

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips|Product Spotlights|By Corrinn McCauley
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